The geometry of politics

May 2, 2007

The stale mediocrity of the traditional left-right dichotomy was probably apparent the moment it was first uttered. Luckily there are many great alternative ways to view the geometry of the political. My favorite of these is a very simple extension of the left-right division made by Political Compass. Instead of a simple line, the geometry to which Political Compass assigns your endlessly unique belief is a plane in which the horizontal axis encodes your economic beliefs (collectivism vs. laissez-faire capitalism) and the vertical axis encodes your social beliefs (libertarianism vs. authoritarianism).

You can take a quiz online here to determine your place on the Political Compass. As I expected, my own beliefs placed me in the anarcho-communist quadrant, in pleasant company with The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, and thankfully quite far from both Hitler and the current occupant of the White House. In the above picture the libertarian-capitalist quadrant is strangely absent of any examples. Some extreme historical examples include Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick, while less extreme and more current examples include anyone in the American Libertarian party.

This geometerization of political thought made me wonder if there was an obvious third axis we could add to make the diagram three-dimensional. I can’t think of any good ones off the bat, but let me know if you do, or alternatively if the existing axes should be replaced with something more apt.

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5 Responses to “The geometry of politics”

  1. Your approach to understanding the world of politics is full of dogma and intellectual nonsense!
    Social change has a life of it’s own and can be understood scientifically!
    The following is brief description of the interactions between the participants in the political spectrum!

    Political action taken by citizens of the America that I live in, is a political and moral right, protected and encouraged by the constitution of the United States!
    Those that are reluctant to take action to further, or protect hard won rights, are usually cowardly or indifferent to these particular American values!
    Their are those that are on the political left that are not satisfied with the way things are, so they will always strive to change the status-quo to the opposite of what exists in the present and what existed in the past. Their battle cry is… “The political center is out of touch and is no longer relevant to what is happening in the here and now,… that it is time to move forward and become more relevant to the new conditions that now exist in our environment!”
    The political “Right Wing” has always been dissatisfied with what exists in the here and now and have always been, since the beginning of time, fearful of the unknown future, so they strive to have our nation move back to the recent or distant past! Their battle cry is… ” We are not being loyal to our established traditions!
    Their are those that are in the center of the political spectrum that are very much satisfied with the way things are and are fearful of change that points toward the future or the past, so they strive to keep change from happening, they do so by compromising and selling out the champions of progress and the champions of tradition!
    Polarization signifies that the political center is becoming increasingly less relevant, and that guarantees a clash between those that want to move away from the… “no longer relevant traditions” of the present and past, and those that believe that the traditions of the past are being betrayed by centrists and leftists, and that they are traitors, and should be “eliminated from the face of the earth!”
    As a result of this inevitable clash of opposite forces,.. our country will move in the direction of change!
    A movement forward, into the untested future, as represented by the “LEFT WING, in the political spectrum, or a movement backward, into the no longer relevant past, as represented by the RIGHT WING, in the political spectrum!”
    WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
    Libertarians and Anarchists appear to me to divorce themselves from context! They want freedom and individualism without regard to the specific material conditions that exist at a particular point in time. They seem to me to want a particular life style for society as a whole, but they are not aware of the necessary steps that must evolve first, and the material conditions that must be present for that life style to become a reality!
    If you and the entire left wing wanted to be on the same page, you would have to view society and the world as a scientist, and act like a scientist! ..Not like a bunch of religious nuts!

  2. pieceful said

    I don’t know how you managed to infer that my view of politics is clouded in dogma from the post. Especially given the fact that I hardly even mentioned my own views. The post was primarily intended as a fun discussion of alternative ways of visualizing political beliefs, and this was certainly not intended as a way to scientifically understand political differences. As with any human cultural system, politics just isn’t amenable to scientific study in the usual sense. There are not steadfast laws in politics like there is in physics. I would in fact characterize the belief that politics is amenable to scientfic study a dogmatic statement, something not unlike the famous religious question: “How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?” In both cases you’d be hardpressed to come up with a shred of evidence supporting your claim, which moreover is strike against the claim that your views are scientific. It is a strike against you because if you had any evidence for your “scientific theory of politics” you would simply present it rather than shouting about how ostensibly scientific you are.

  3. HBop said

    Economic Left/Right: -4.50
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.26

    I’m right there with you!

  4. vera said

    Economic Left/Right: -8.50
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.08

    A bit further to the fence of the quadrant itself than i remembered…i don’t even get to hang out all that close to His Holiness.

  5. nate dawg said

    Here’s how nate-dawg fared at of 2100 on 5/10/07

    Economic Left/Right: -0.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.23

    slight to the left of the y axis for econ and way down south on x-axis of liberty

    cheers!

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